EDUCATIONAL BUZZWORDS: A 21ST CENTURY PARADIGM OF FLIPPED LEARNING SPACES

Diaspora was supposed to be an open source, decentralised version of Facebook. A quick search will tell you what happened to it and whether you can access it. Who knows if it will ever come to life. Its premise was all that Facebook is generally not - a place for true user-voted news that was voted on worthiness and not a test bed for dumbing-down of the news to the lowest common denominator. Still, Condé Nast could never let that happen as it might damage Reddit's stake as number one switchboard for memes and Facebook, well, Facebook is Facebook - the gateway drug for the general masses to like and generally believe ANYTHING that they read. Still, it's the use of 'diaspora' in the wrong context that is slightly irksome and its misuse links my thinking to the general state of technology in education.

 

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WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ARTS? IS CODE THE NEW CREATIVITY?

There is a helluva hullabaloo brewing around who codes, who doesn't code and who should be coding. My little boy is six months old and I'm seriously worried that if he isn't coding by the age of one then I'm failing as a father. His mother is a digital creative, an artist, a designer. So much for her influence then in these STEM-tastic times.

Seriously though what happened to the Arts? It seems that STEM is taking over what with the Maker Faire being hosted at the White House this time around it strikes me that the Arts (and anything related to it including it's denizens who reside within this field) must and will take firm backseat for a long time to come. While the UK follows the suit of the US in puppy-dog fashion, the 'Anti-Oik' and general antagonist Gove has been pushingSTEM in the UK in the guise of coding

I was talking to my secondary counter parts yesterday in a very impromtu drop-in and ended up talking about coding in Year 9, Raspberry Pi and how the Computer Science GCSE/ A Level is a far cry from the ICT GCSE/ A Level. In a nutshell: ICT = MS Office. As we are all too familiar with. However, this is legacy and nothing in comparison to what's coming. We talked that in Year 9 it's compulsory for the students to have experience of a wrtten language that isn't HTML (HTML doesn't count - I'd heard this but never in conversation with a teacher of KS3/4/5). The example I saw was Karel - an introductory language that can get quite complex as CodeHSdemonstrates. I am really pleased to see this as it's been a long time since my programming persuasion has been in line with KS3 and 4. However much I like Python, Ruby and Scratch (Small talk/ Squeak) before it. I think we're missing a trick here though. There should be a general lineage form KS1 too and this is where the fireworks can start. We all have our favourites.

Now, I'm all for technological advances and it interests me in many ways although as an old saying goes "anything excess in life is poison." So what happened to the balance? Is creativity taking a very niche route and bound to the confines of code? Or is Coding the new creativity? Is the App Store the Pop Idol for coders with the many also-rans trying to compete with the likes of Zynga for the next Chocolate Rain? With every student who makes it near the top there are thousands who are at a mere karaoke standard trying to vie with everyone else and dropping their prices to 99c. 

I feel there is an imbalance somewhere here that I can't quite put my finger on. Although, this coding leyline is exclusive unless you're inclined to digitally represent your creativity and eschew good ol' standard mediums. I think I may need to adjust my teaching style to bend the other way and only teach coding where there is an artistic flavour to hand .

The teaching of coding, I think, needs a tiny dousing of Leonardo Da Vinci and a little less Lenin; I'm going to strive to keep the true artistic balance in our future schemes.

THE OCULUS RIFT - CAN IT BE USED IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOL?

Years ago as a kid I remember bieng wowed with the distant possibilities of some kind of Virtual Reality set-up on my parents' Trinitron by the greatest Science and Tech TV show of the time: Tomorrow's World with Maggie Philbin and Judith Hann. Ah Nostalgia.

At the time, VR was this thing that crazy technologists did in the confines of their make-shift studios. The closest anyone I knew that really got to VR was a poor immitation as a vertically ridged holographic image on the side of a ruler or strawberry-scented pencil eraser. They were sedentary affairs at best that eventually came free with Coco-Pops.

It all seems a bit dated now as too the whole notion of VR as it seems to have been around for aeons. I did a bit of digging about (now that our Oculus Rift was delivered last month) and found that there are so many variants that were emblazened on the front covers of PC and gaming magazines of the time that we all remember but had forgotten about. How many of you recall the VicktorMaxx Head Mounted Display for the Sega Genesis or indeed Nintendo's Virtual Boy?

At that time, if you recall, there was also a slew of films that added to the stroryline of the charismatic Tron. In those days there was a real emphasis on scientific invention as too today with the Marvell Vs DC theme. The other film that sticks in my mind was Stephen King's Lawnmower Man - an OK film unlike the sequel - and was highlighting (as did Tron before it) this new change in cyber stuff and electronics (90's phraseology not tech as it's coined now).

We all knew that Japan would release some kind of console the following week (as it seemed to be to amaze and blow our minds. As if it hadn't already with the SNES and Game Gear. The image above of my trip to Japan last year where Stef (my wife) and I trawled Akihabara for any kind of gadgets worthy of taking home. The Sony VR goggles were on show in the Sony center, Ginza behind glass although the closest we got to VR was theEpson version above. These are see-thu types that don't really do VR more like AR as you're still aware of all that is around you.

However, VR (and AR as it's been combined with now) was still hyperbole and was always tauted as: "next year, this could be in your home and in your hands!"

What's a little different now is that this kit is affordable and in the hands of regular folk. The Oculus Rift Development kit is $300 and the demos are all free to use.

The bits and pieces for the Oculus to integrate with games and-the-like I have come across range from free to $50 - these for the add-ons or overlays that allows games to display correctly with the Rift being the main controller.

How Can We Use These in School?

After using this for quite a long time now I am convinced that this has a lot of benefit to school. Not so much in the way that it could be used whole class or by year group but definitely in small groups and for sharing in lessons such as literacy or where individual displays are used such as learning support. Why literacy (English) and Learning Support? Well, my thinking is that these lessons are where attention span can sometimes wane and a wow factor is needed or specific descriptive language can be enhanced in the same way as Tim Rylandsuses Myst (or as I do Machinarium) for imagination.

Oculus VR GogglesIf you think about the games that are available for play with the Oculus then you have things like Surgeon Simulator which at first glance are a far too gruesome for Primary aged children. However, if you spend a second to break this action down to what it is you're actually viewing and taking part in it's basically a pre-set puzzle or sleuth type event much like a crime scene. Now, if you're like-minded then this easily offers itself to Science, Mathematical puzzles (MinecraftEdu setups), problem solving where the viewership can watch the person controlling and make judgements to solve puzzles.

The Oculus I have to say is in its infancy. The screen in the development kit is good but raw. Nearly all the staff who tried this felt sick from the nausea (except Stefani and I). Then new model is said to be a vast improvement with much lower latency and tracking for vertical movements i.e. crouching.

Oculus Rift computer Envy Singapore.jpg

Until this model gets into my hands then I am hanging this up for the time being for use in the Primary school except for special occasions and gaming sessions at breaktimes and after school clubs - maybe even our new Minecraft mediation topic coming up. Until then though it's been well worth the $300 for experimentation purposes and I shall be purchasing the new one. Maybe we'll venture into the Sony verison too based on this very valuable experience.

http://www.riftenabled.com/

http://www.oculusvr.com/vrjam/

Search Tips for Teachers - The Friday Tech Attack

Every 3rd Friday we have a 3 minute nano presentation on tips for using technology. This week it's how to search and get the things we need from a Google search and missing out in the top ten results.

The image below is adapted for our staff from a Teach Thought image over here.

Full size images available here via Dropbox.

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HOW CAN WE TEACH CODING THROUGHOUT THE PRIMARY SCHOOL?

According to Ian Livingstone (and any teacher who teaches ICT) there are all manner of abilities, experiences and modes of technology that children bring to school. They know how all the peripherals work and if they don't they soon learn from their peers of it's basic operation. They are expert consumers of technology as we once were. But this is the key aspect isn't it? They use technology but they don't know why or even how it really works.

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Setting Up Guide for Class Sets of iOS Devices

Cloning iPads or iPod touches isn't illegal. This note from Apple iTunes Support tells you that you can sync 10 devices to one account per authorised computer. If you read here you can see that iBooks is somewhat different. As too iCloud. If you have a home account for the iOS devices in your home then you obviously sync to that account. Your child, brother, sister, aunt, dog, cat, husband or wife all do the same. This amounts to a lot of copying of data and contacts (Can you see how useful that is for school? Not so handy for family though. I'm not sure your 14 year old child would want his/her contacts syncing to your iOS device!) to many devices on the same account. Is there a limit? Well, yes and no. I point this out below too. The limit we find is about 20 restores. Then it becomes a little sticky and we have to use more than one Mac to finish completely. Hence, below you see we use 5. I am not using Windows PCs with iTunes as you can't sync multiple devices at once with iTunes on Windows. See below from the Apple discussions board.

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Sound Uncovered - iPad App for Science/ Topic in Year 3

Sound Uncovered is a great, free app from here that is made by Exploratorium.com. We're beginning to use it in science and topic work where we're continuing using an ICT lab-free environment.

The Prompt sheet below is for the children who prefer a very structured way of going about things. The other children will have white boards etc to explore and revisit the prompts on the IWB.

You're free to edit the sheets and the presentation as you see fit.

Making Google Chrome Work for Your ICT Classroom

In a nutshell it's here.

How long have you been using Google Chrome as your personal browser? Do you sync across all your devices? No? Then you should! It makes sense for all those frequently accessed tabs and link we always open.

If you're a teacher in the primary school then you can utilise that functionality to help your students access the link you need really easily and quickly without having to go through a convoluted file system on the local network. 

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